In Council August '23

30 Aug 2023

August traditionally is a light month for council meetings, with many councillors and officers away on their summer holidays it can be difficult to get the required numbers of people and business organised.  This does not mean however that work stops, in our many Focus newsletters there is often a line “Working for you all year round”, and this is true.  In this edition of In Council rather than talk about the two committee meetings this month (which can be read about: and ), we’d like to take the time to talk about the other work we do for residents throughout the year.

Our role as councillors both borough and county is not only to represent you in the official meetings, it is also to be there to help solve issues and look after our areas.  This can be as simple as reporting and chasing the repair of potholes, litter, broken street lighting, etc. or it can be helping to push forward local improvements. The remainder of this update will be looking at some of the more interesting areas of work that your councillors have undertaken that whilst not necessarily newsworthy in themselves can give an insight into the types of work we do daily.

Councillor Clark gets his rock on

Working with North Loose Residents Association (NLRA), Cllr. Brian Clark helped with essential footpath maintenance by arranging for 15 tonnes of crushed rock to be made available.  The footpath near Five Acre Wood School is used for access, but when it rains it can be impassable.  Volunteers from the NLRA and Five Acre Wood School undertook the work, but were having difficulty getting the materials, Brian interceded with KCC and the work is now progressing.

Brian Clark commented: “These efforts show how we all can play our part and work together, even in this time of cutbacks.  A strong volunteer community effort, helped by materials that would otherwise be sitting in storage, has led to the best of outcomes.  I’d like to pass on my thanks to the volunteers for their hard work.”

Meeting with Maidstone Mosque

Cllr. Dinesh Khadka recently had a fruitful meeting with leaders from Maidstone Mosque to discuss issues the mosque was facing, but the opportunity the mosque brings for the local area and wider engagement.

Dinesh Khadka said: “It is great working with the local community.  Those at Maidstone Mosque play a vital role within that part of our community and reaching out to wider parts of Maidstone.  It is imperative to understand the challenges and I am extremely appreciative to get opportunities to meet like this so we can work for the betterment of Maidstone.”

Anti-Social Behaviour is not on

As a group we take community safety and wellbeing extremely seriously, and work very closely with the officers at MBC and the police.  One of the main routes of keeping up to date and feeding back is through the “Ward Cluster Meetings”, where under guidance we look to continually improve this aspect of Maidstone, for those of us in fulltime employment they can be tricky to attend (often rescheduling lunch breaks so we can make the meetings), however it is a point of pride in our group that where we represent we will have a presence in these meetings and help look after the wellbeing of our residents.

Cllr. Clive English leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the council said: “Our aim is to ensure that the Council  takes robust action to reassure residents and businesses that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.  No matter what type of anti-social behaviour it is I am grateful to all of our group for their continued efforts of working with the council officers and the police to,  through best practice methods, reduce undesired behaviours and make Maidstone feel like a safe and vibrant place.”

Of course, sometimes issues are a little more urgent than scheduled meetings will allow as Cllr. Richard Conyard found out when helping residents of Union Street:

“It certainly was one of the more interesting reports of anti-social behaviour to come my way, whist the individuals involved were carrying out the unfortunately typical: shouting, fighting, and smashing of glass and other people’s property; this must be the first case I’ve had where someone decided to repeatedly stop traffic raised their arms in a mock crucifixion style and proclaim to be Jesus.  Whilst it was reported too late to catch the individuals in the act a big thank you needs to go to the council officers and police officers of the Town Centre Task Force for providing a presence to deter further issues and route of escalation should this occur again.”

Hayle Park keeps growing

Those involved in Hayle Park will often see Cllrs. Paul Wilby, Derek Mortimer, and Brian Clark covered in mud and getting their hands dirty along with the other volunteers.  They also have been working for many years now to secure Woodland at Mount Ararat.  The lease has now been drawn up, and subject to final legal review this should now be added to the land managed by the trust removing the final barrier to obtaining Local Nature Reserve status with Natural England.

Paul Wilby said: “Overcoming this, hopefully, last hurdle to gain Local Nature Reserve status is fantastic news not only for the park, but also for local residents and those that have discovered this jewel.  Hayle Park is a wonderful asset to Maidstone and it’s a pleasure to be part of its workings.”

Overcoming confusion

Let’s face it, dealing with the many different parts of the council can be confusing, at times it even confuses the most veteran of us councillors.  We are here to help though, and because often these issues can be personal our help is confidential.  Across the year the most common area we have helped people and families navigate the complex processes of housing and council tax.  Because the system must cater for the many varied circumstances of those needing to use it, understanding the best routes can be tricky, but it is something we’re here to help with.

Cllr Ashleigh Kimmance commented: “It is an unfortunate truth that those residents who are often in the most need are sometimes faced with the toughest of barriers to getting help because of the complexities of their often unique requirements, housing can be especially hard.  It is because of the difficulty and the necessity that I find this area of my work some of the most fulfilling when successful because whilst it might only be one family at a time it has made a real difference.”


Looking after local

Hopefully the above has provided further insight into the more interesting areas of councillor work that aren’t conducted in the council chambers.  There still of course is the equally important, but even less newsworthy areas of:

  • Potholes
  • Litter bins
  • Fly-tipping
  • Graffiti
  • Overgrown vegetation

August saw the launch of our Street Champion community initiative were we are inviting everyone to become a Street Champion so we can get to know you, the problems you face in your area so we can either solve them, or when larger start to solve them, and ask you to become an extra set of eyes and ears for us so we can do even more work on your behalf.  The final word of this update therefore has to be a huge thank you to all the Street Champions that have already signed up, and if you haven’t and this update has whet your appetite you can find out more and sign-up here.

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